Wine review — Capital Wines, De Bortoli, Hungerford Hill, Riposte and Mud House

Capital Wines Reserve Shiraz 2010 $52
Kyeema vineyard, Murrumbateman, Canberra District, New South Wales
Capital Wines is about to release its Frontbencher Shiraz 2010 ($25) – with today’s wine of the week to follow in March. The former is simply delicious – a fine-boned, spicy shiraz to enjoy now, and, to me, the best yet under the label. The Reserve wine, from the Kyeema Vineyard (established 1982), goes to another level – although it needs more bottle age or a good splash in the decanter. This is elegant, spicy, cool-climate shiraz of a very high order.

De Bortoli Yarra Valley Syrah 2010 $33
Dixon Creek, Yarra Valley, Victoria
There’s a unique cut and thrust to this wine, setting it apart from any other Australian shiraz. The cool growing climate (four east-facing blocks of De Bortoli’s Yarra vineyard) drives the style. But harvesting time, gentle fruit handling, winemaking and maturation techniques all contribute to the layers of flavour and texture. The intense flavour combines vibrant, fresh berries, cool-climate white pepper and a note of stalkiness, probably a result of including whole bunches in the ferment. The structure is lean and tight, even sinewy, but with a lovely suppleness.

Hungerford Hill Shiraz 2010 $35
Hunter Valley, New South Wales
Hunter reds like this were once called “Hunter Burgundy” – a salute to their medium body and silky texture, which bore some style resemblance to Burgundian pinot noir. Michael Hatcher’s latest vintage captures that classic old style in a clean, bright modern way. It’s a gentle, juicy red, focussing on delicious, vibrant fruit flavours, supported by the district’s distinctive tender, silky tannins. This provides great drinking pleasure now and I suspect that a few years’ bottle age will add regional earthy and savoury characters.

Riposte The Dagger Pinot Noir 2011 $20
Adelaide Hills, South Australia
Winemaker Tim Knappstein describes the 2011 vintage as, “one of the most difficult in my 50 years of winemaking. The grapes for our ‘Sabre’ pinot noir did not meet my criteria so the wine was not produced. Fortunately, despite the challenges, ‘The Dagger’ pinot noir came through with good results. It will be an interesting year for the wine media as the 2011 red wines come up for review”. Indeed, The Dagger measures up. It’s a lighter style of pinot, featuring strawberry-like varietal character, a rich texture and a pleasing thrust of acidity and fine tannins.

Mud House Pinot Noir 2010 $21.85–$29
Golden Terraces Vineyard, Bendigo, Central Otago, New Zealand
The two Mud House pinots reviewed here reveal a comparatively burly side of pinot – quite a contrast to Tim Knappstein’s elegant Riposte style. Led initially by Felton Road, the very dry Central Otago region (45 degrees south and around 350 metres above sea level), offers a unique environment for pinot noir. Mud House’s entry-level blend provides a good-value introduction to the regional style – full, plummy and ripe and backed by firm, savoury tannins.

Mud House Estate Golden Terraces Pinot Noir 2010 $32–$36
Home Block, Golden Terraces Vineyard, Bendigo, Central Otago, New Zealand
This is slightly deeper coloured than Mud House’s cheaper pinot and may challenge the palates of those accustomed to Australia’s generally softer styles – but that’s what regionality is all about. The fruit flavours are ripe, like dark plums and black cherries, and very concentrated. Mingled with very firm tannins and an underlying savouriness, this creates a bold, assertive style of pinot – all of which may sweeten up and become more silky and supple with bottle age. However, not having tried a bottle-aged version, we’ll have to wait and see.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2012
First published 15 February 2012 in The Canberra Times